Words can hardly pinpoint how I felt after I attended the Choir and Chamber Music Orchestra on the 7th of March 2016. I was utterly bemused and consumed by the wondrous performance delivered by the choir members and the symphony orchestra. This annual event organized by UNMC’s Music Society served to demonstrate the diversity in skill, talent, and achievements among University students, while at the same time, allowing students to take a break from their hectic study life.
Hosted by the charismatic Adam Shamil, the theme of this year’s event was “Movie & Animation” and, of course, featured an exciting repertoire of both classic and contemporary soundtracks from Disney animations, Hollywood films, anime and video games. As I sat in the dim Great Hall, clutching my notebook and scanning a booklet detailing the songs to be performed, I could sense the laid-back atmosphere permeating the present audience members. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the show that was to begin at 7 pm.
Soon, all of the performing members appeared on stage: the symphony orchestra members dressed in black attire while the choir members were donned in snow white and turquoise blue, an image which befitted the enthralling atmosphere of the opening track “When You Wish Upon A Star”, Disney’s most iconic song coming from one of its most beloved films of all time – Pinocchio. As the first few notes were sung, I felt an immense emotion welling up inside me – I was deeply moved by the harmonic vocals, the euphonious orchestral sounds and the general aura created by the combination of overlapping voices and melodious instrumentals. The accompanying projector which displayed footage from the original film only served to intensify the nostalgia moving us all. At the same time, I realized that a shower of bubbles was raining down on the audience. In order to recreate the dreamy and ethereal ambiance of classic Disney cartoons, the supporting MUSSOC crew on the upper floor of the Great Hall decided to blow bubbles over the audience.
Gamers had an opportunity to rejoice as original soundtracks from Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts, renowned titles published by video game giant Square Enix, were showcased in the form of medleys and conducted by Kenneth Tan, much to the awe and applause of the audience. The folk-influenced piece “To Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X was infused with flutes and violins, while the approximately 12-minute long Kingdom Hearts medley was performed in all of its spectacular grandeur, treating everyone to a rollercoaster ride of bombastic and theatrical music. The event organizers had anime fans’ interests at heart too, for a medley of songs from the hit anime series Attack on Titan and Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke were presented by the orchestra and electric guitarists. This mixture of symphonic and rock music left everyone enthralled by the resonant compositions.
In addition, the choir performed theme songs from two retro Hollywood movies – The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. Led by conductress Celine Chong, the choir members serenaded the audience with timeless songs such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “The Sound of Music”. Later, themes from recent Hollywood blockbusters, including The Avengers, Fast & Furious 7 and the latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were also performed with gusto by members of the symphony orchestra, culminating in a remarkable auditory experience. The memorable “Bella’s Final” scene from the 2012 film Pitch Perfect was reenacted too by all choir members, who donned dark jackets and swayed and moved along to the rhythm of the music, earning the cheers and appraisal of the audience.
Another major highlight of the night was a dramatic medley based on an internationally-known musical – Les Misérables. Think famous and beloved tracks such as “One Day More”, “At the End of the Day”, “I Dreamed A Dream”, “Do You Hear The People Sing” and “On My Own”. As part of the show, all of the choir members slipped into outfits reminiscent of the French working class. The facial expressions and gestures of the members perfectly encapsulated the anguish and grief of the characters in the original musical, symbolizing the struggle of the people against an oppressive state in 19th-century France.
Furthermore, the symphony orchestra played more classics from Disney animations, including a medley that encompassed main themes from familiar Pixar films ranging from Cars, The Incredibles to Ratatouille and Inside Out. After the last tune – “In Dreams” from The Lord of The Rings – had been played, a resounding applause and repeated cries of “Encore!” could be heard as the euphoric audience yelled and cheered on for the performers to give one more performance before calling it a night. Due to overwhelming demand, the respective heads of the main choir and each vocal range decided to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, accompanied by keyboardists and guitarists. The audience went wild, singing along to the evergreen rock track and clapping their hands in unison.
Alas, all good things must come to an end as the concert officially came to a conclusion right before 10 pm. As I walked out through the double doors of the Great Hall, I left knowing that what transpired earlier was not a mere concert; it was a journey down memory lane; a time-travelling adventure towards an era of unforgettable childhood memories that would always be cherished for years to come.
By Chen May